April 15, 2007

Updates on the Andamans & Bangalore

Many friends have been inquiring about my experiences in the Andamans. I apologise for the delay in uploading the pics and posting. But I'm not completely at fault since I am the mercy of those who own the digicams (BTW this is a must-buy gadget for people like me with huge wanderlust)

But take heart me hearties ... Downloads are in progress and I've got the machinery rolling. Hopefully in a few weeks :( I will have all the pics; and the posts will follow. Till then you have to be satisfied with my random ramblings!

April 12, 2007


Formula One is becoming a win win game for me. Till last year there were very few moments when the race result would leave me satisfied. That was because ever since I started following the sport in 2001 I have had my favorite driver in my favorite team. Mika Hakkinen and later Kimi Raikonnen were both McLaren drivers. This year hence with Schumi finally vacating his Ferrari seat (realising that F1 will br much more exciting without him) to Kimi and Alonso at McLaren the race result always keeps me in good spirits. Past two races have sure been so. Lets hope it continues for the rest of the season.

April 11, 2007

Another one bites the dust

As the West Indies crashed out of this edition of the World Cup I once again felt remorse and sad. Many years ago (1994) is was the West Indies that lured me to become their biggest fan. That was the series against India which the Windies levelled in Mumbai after being one down in nagpur. It was the summer and I was at my uncles house and since I had nothing better to do was watching (grudgingly!) a Test match!

They say childhood influences last a lifetime. In that series I saw Walsh, Kenneth Benjamin, Anderson Cummins and a coupla other quicks. Lara, Chanderpaul, Hooper, Keith Artherton and Simmons as batsmen and a wickety called Junior Murray. I fell in love with their style and their flamboyance. I made it a point to learn more about them. Soon I was mesmerised by the bowling of Curtly Ambrose and the batsmanship of Brian Lara. Till today my favorite all time players are Ambrose and Lara. And I really wished that the semifinals against Australia went differently in 1996 when they lost by 4 runs. It would have given these two great players the highest honour due to them.

Over the latter half of the 90s they have gone through their lowest with a poor domestic structure and a lack of unity. The former has seen dirty linen being washed in public and the latter has seen players revolt on salaries and contracts. Combine that with a lack of one person to bring different islands together and you have a recipe for disaster. Clive Loyd was perhaps the last great unifier of West Indian cricket. Viv Richards to some extent but Lara is just not there as a people person.

But I am not completely disheartened because there is potential. The last two editions of the ICC Champions trophy has given proof though its not exactly a revival of fortunes they are capable of coming up with good cricket. It is also a fact that every dog his day. The Aussies were the whipping boys of cricket int he days of Merv Hughes and then came along Border who changed Aussie cricket. Similar is the story of what Cronje did after Kepler Wessels handed him the South African captaincy. What West Indies cricket needs is one person who can see ahead and build a team that will be world class a few years down the line. Till that time we will have to see the Windies whipped around.

Buck up dudes!

April 7, 2007

That scam called Religion - Part III

Good or Bad?
They way I have potrayed religion you must be wondering whether anything good has ever come out of it. Well nothing is entirely bad or entirely good. Ditto here. In the example of Christianity (I hope you will forgive my lack of knowledge about other religions!) education has assumed significant importance among those priests with a missionary bent of mind. The large number of centres of excellence in education in India run by the Church is a testimony to that fact. I am not aware about missionary activity in other religions but I am sure something must exist.

If it had not been for the reforms under the Vatican II in the year 1962-65 Christianity would have been a dying religion. There would have been a mass exodus of its members. It is to the credit of the Church that they were proactive in recognising an era of knowledge and intense inquiry into matters of religion. They plugged most of the holes that had been left by the fighting of their predecessors. More than anything the Church changed its stance from a rigid patriachal system to one which signigficant control was handed down to the people who constitute the Church. Though people are satisfied the scam continues. Christianity is still restricted by symbolism like the Mass, the Cross and certain rituals called sacraments. It will be a long time before the old mindset of blindly accepting something handed down by authority changes.

Not all religious leaders are rabble rousers. While most of them have blindly accepted what has come down the ages as the truth. Few have stopped to inquire and those few have been persecuted, burnt at the stakes, excommunicated and killed. A few have managed to survive though.

Which is why yesterday's Good Friday Homily by Fr Nigel Barett came like a refreshing breeze on a humid summers day. Fr Nigel challenged old concepts like suffering and sacrifice and gave it new meaning. It was a welcome change and for the first time in months I was excited. Suddenly religion looked like an 'applied' theme; from which you can actually do something. God and religion seemed one for a brief fleeting instant.

Convergence will take place the day everyone practices his/her religion in its truest and purest form and we will stop scamming ourselves.

That scam called Religion - Part II

In my previous post there I have shown how the original message of an extraordinary being gets corrupted over the years into rituals which lose relevance and meaning with respect to the original message.

For me the concepts of 'God' and 'organised religion' are two very different things; the latter being a creation of man to control and exert his power. In the example of Christianity, there were clearly two power centres; that of Constantinople and Rome which subsequently came to be known as the Eastern and Western versions respectively. The Nicene Creed (popularly known as the 'I Believe') is a credo that was the outcome of the Council of Nicea, organised by the Emperor Constantine somewhere around the 4th century AD to unite the Western and Eastern theories. The fallout was that a good many texts which would have been windows to our original doctrines were destroyed by Constantine to ensure success of the Council and the Nicene Creed was made the standard. The common Creed lasted till about 1000 AD when power struggles that ensued between the Bishops of important cities at that time, namely Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople, Jerusalem and Antioch; split the Church in two permanently and have ensured that what we have today is more a result of a patronising Emperor and less of our original doctrines.

Today the Nicene Creed occupies an enviable position in the Catholic Church and is also part of the Holy Mass. Most of what we know about religion is a product of the power struggle between kings, bishops and other rulers and administrators. People who propogated what they wanted to and destroyed evidence that would undermine their authority and status.

Hence religion is all about power. Political, Economical and Social. How does it sustain itself? It builds a culture around itself. People are born into the culture and it becomes a part of their lives. When they grow up and (if) they begin to question their religion they literally have no choice. They will have to renounce a culture that is so much part of them they can't seem to fit outside. Thats the Social ringfence. Economically it collects tithes from its members; those with higher collections getting more attention than others ultimately creating in the minds of such members a feeling of superiority. (Talk to some old parishoners in areas like Orlem, Bandra and IC Colony to get a better understanding) The influence of the Church in Catholic countries / areas like Philipinnes, Spain, Mexico and parts of Latin America are well known. Even in India in the days following the death of missionary Graham Staines the Catholic Church openly encouraged its members to vote for 'secular' parties (read: the Indian National Congress)

I call it a scam because for the most part of it we have allowed rituals and symbolism to rule us. The Christian equivalent of 'jihaad' also known as 'Crusades', killings of women from different cultures in the form of burning at the stakes, selling of Indulgences (absolution in exchange for money), corruption and an attitude of arrogance and superiority characterised the Church. Symbols (eg. the Cross, statues, trinkets and other paraphernalia) are used by religious leaders to rouse public sentiments when these things should not matter. And again the story will not be very different across religions.

That is how Religion and God are vastly different. Two very different concepts often paraded together, sold to us in a packaged deal. Its a pity many of us blindly accept it without question. The Church had a brilliant way of dealing with the problem. A line in the Bible says "Blessed are ye who do not see and yet believe" The line I believe is deliberately inserted to quell any questions and make you feel good. Christ was a man full of wisdom, I doubt He would have said a line like that.

(To be continued)

That scam called Religion - Part I

I have been thinking about religion since some time. And in the following post I will pen (rather type) my thoughts. I have been looking closely at religion and it looks to be one of the best scams ever. One person or a group of persons have built a set of rules and guiding principles that have to be followed by the multitudes. Mostly these were based on what the founders thought to be right. I don't mean the technical founder but the guys who took over after the new philosophy was propounded. I am not an authority on the various religions of the world but I know a bit about Christianity. Lets start there.

Contrary to popular belief Christ was not the founder of Christianity. His disciples were. Christ did not write the New Testament in the Bible. His disciples (mainly fisherfolk and possibly illiterate with the exception of Matthew who was a tax collector) did. Most of the accounts were also written down when the disciples were old somwehere around 80 AD. Point being that Christianity was shaped by what the First Believers penned, the rules they enforced and the tradition they established. Todays Christian doctrine has also been hugely influenced by famous patrons, most notably Emperor Constantine. Over the years the Christian religious leadership has assimilated what these influences have borne, the Nicene Creed (popularly known as the 'I believe') being the most famous. Are there deviations from Jesus' original philosophy? Were the non-controversial Gospels chosen? Were controversial Gospels discarded? What has been hidden under the carpet? We will never know.

These interventions by power hungry administrators have manisfested themselves in small disparities in our Holy Texts. For all His divineness and humility Christ seems to have been a little vain as chronicled by the line at the last supper, "Do this in memory of Me". Do what? Follow your teaching (i.e. 'Break yourself for others') or just break bread symbolically? The former would make sense, unfortunately the Church has chosen the latter and over the centuries we have forgotten the former giving us a ritual which does not go with the character of a person who has a high degree of moral goodness.

Herein, I feel, lie the first seeds of control as sown by the authors or interveners. The setting up of systems, processes and rituals that the rest should follow. The Church then comes up with a verdict (possibly to get errant Christians on track) saying that missing Sunday Mass (the re-enactment of the Last Supper) is sin. Somewhere along the line they also classify sin as venial (smaller transgressions) and mortal (larger transgressions). Obviously missing Sunday service is classified mortal. Why was Sunday chosen? Apparently that is the day God rested i.e. the Sabbath. Ironically Christ Himself has attacked the concept of the Sabbath in the very same Gospels where His disciples propound it.

Religion is based on fear. Bertrand Russell calls it the fear of the unknown. Over centuries religious leaders have capitalised on this fear by setting the rules. Those who deviate or 'sin' will be punished on a deferred basis i.e. in later life or after death in places called Purgatory (another fancy creation, a tool of fear and power). There is no mention of Purgatory in the Scriptures. Yes there is something mentioned about 'weeping and gnashing of teeth' but then I doubt neither weeping nor gnashing a method of spiritual cleansing. And i am sure Someone who is omniscient will agree. Fear. Thats what it is all built on. And since nobody has come back from the netherworld the fear is all the more credible.

So who decides what is sin? As per the old cathecism pre-Vatican II (A conclave where the Church decided to move with the times) of the Catholic Church there are seven capital sins (Small digression: There is also a movie starring Kevin Spacey called 'Se7en' where he murders people who commit these sins). If God gave us freedom then he surely has no right to punish us. The concept of Hell is also something I do not agree with. Everlasting punishment goes against the very nature of a forgiving God that we learn during Cathecism.

I have taken the example of Christianity since I have been educated about it. Looking at the disillusionment all around me I can sense that a similar malaise exists in other religions. The core of the message / philosophy has been lost over time and has been replaced with rituals which concentrate power in the hands of a few.

(To be continued ... )

April 1, 2007

And God made woman ... (or did he???)

An observation: All the women I am interested / attracted to are married, betrothed, about to get married, into a relationship, in cities far away, don't have the time since they are busy with college or professional life, lesbian or have societal & communal constraints ... Where are all the women gone????!!!!